Children's book mulls: What did Wise Men see?

Clintonville pastor considers Christmas star in first book

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Retired minister and Clintonville resident the Rev. James Freshour has written a children's Christmas book titled "Coulda', Woulda', Did! Ideas about the Christmas Star" The book is illustrated by retired Westerville art teacher Gail Paulus.

After the Rev. James Freshour, a retired United Methodist Church minister, completed a children's book centering on the Christmas star, the Clintonville resident needed someone to illustrate it.

When a mutual friend suggested Gail Paulus, herself retired following a 30-year career as an art teacher with Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, the result was both a collaboration and a reunion.

Freshour was once the minister at Church of the Messiah in Westerville, which Paulus attends. Paulus, a resident of the Sharon Woods neighborhood in the Northland area, said she had lost touch with her former pastor after he transferred to the Maize Manor United Methodist Church prior to retiring four years ago.

The result of the former pastor and parishioner working together is Coulda', Woulda', Did! Ideas About the Christmas Star.

The book, published by Xulon Press, includes 13 watercolor paintings by Paulus, a member of the Westerville Art League.

"It's based on some biblical work that I did," Freshour said.

The genesis, so to speak, for Coulda', Woulda', Did! arose seven or eight years ago, during a study of the book of Matthew by several pastors. In particular, they were focusing on the passages dealing with the Three Wise Men following a star to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

Some religious scholars feel it might have been a natural phenomenon, while others opt for a supernatural explanation, Freshour said. Still others hold out for the star being angelic in concept.

Those three possibilities formed the concept for the book, which is aimed at third- and fourth-graders and includes notes for parents, Freshour said.

"The book has kind of an 'Aha!' ending," he added. "It's up to the reader to ultimately decide what they feel most comfortable with."

"It was really fun because it was fun to try to gauge what he was thinking and try to make it come alive on the page so he was happy with it," said Paulus, making her first foray into illustrating a children's book. "I thought we connected pretty well. We seemed to be compatible in that way."

"Being a pastor, I'm pretty comfortable with writing my sermons out, so the writing came pretty smoothly to me," Freshour said. "For me, it's kind of a natural process, writing and communicating with children. I did this without the advantage of attending any children's writers' workshops. I did this out of faith with the feeling that I could do it without any coaching from children's-book writers."

"I thought it came together pretty well," Paulus said. "I like the way the publisher did the text. I tried to keep a particular color of blue in each picture so it would pull the book together. The publisher actually pulled out a blue for the text."

Freshour and his wife, Mary Kay, have three adult children and eight grandchildren.

The author will sign copies of his book, which sells for $9.99 in paperback and $20.99 in hardback, at the following locations in the near future:

* Sunday, Dec. 15, following morning services at Church of the Messiah, 51 N. State St. in Westerville.

* Noon Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Maize Manor United Methodist Church Preschool, 3901 Maize Road.

* 11 a.m. Dec. 22 at Maize Manor United Methodist Church.

The book also is on sale at Cover to Cover, 3560 N. High St., and the Monk Works gift store at the Shops at Worthington Place.